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Retail failing at social media for customer service

960 640 Stuart O'Brien

Retailers are neglecting social media when it comes to customer service, and are not listening to consumers to drive customer experience improvements.

That’s according to the 2019 Eptica Digital Trust Study, which found that while retailers successfully answered 59% of routine queries asked via web self service, chat, email, Facebook and Twitter, there were wide variations in performance between channels.

Retailers provided answers to 83% of queries on their websites but only responded correctly to 38% of tweets and 50% of Facebook messages.

Performance had worsened on many channels since 2017 – then retailers answered 73% of emails. By 2019 this had dropped to 68%, despite the continued popularity of the channel with consumers, who use it for over a quarter of their interactions with brands.

As part of the 2019 Eptica Digital Trust Study, 20 fashion and food & drink retailers were evaluated on their digital customer experience, alongside brands from other sectors, by testing their accuracy and speed at answering relevant, routine queries, repeating research conducted since 2012.

Questions included asking about ethical sourcing policies (fashion) and allergy labelling (food and drink). Additionally, 1,000 consumers were asked for their views on customer experience.

Fashion (answering 60% of all queries) and food and drink (59%) were the top sectors surveyed, but still failed to respond to 4 in 10 of all routine queries.

The research also demonstrated a direct link between trust, listening and loyalty. 89% of consumers surveyed said they either will stop buying from brands that they don’t trust or will spend less. Building trust begins with delivering on basic promises – 59% ranked giving satisfactory, consistent answers as a top three factor in creating trustworthiness, while 63% rated making processes easy and seamless as key. Just 8% of consumers felt that brands were listening to them all of the time, with 74% believing brands pay attention to their views half the time or less.

“The move to digital has transformed the retail landscape,” said Olivier Njamfa, CEO and Co-Founder, Eptica. “Greater choice means consumers are becoming more demanding and are actively seeking out brands that they can trust and who listen to them. While retail brands have made some improvements since 2017, they have slipped back in others, damaging trust and ultimately customer loyalty and revenues. If they want to succeed they need to listen to customers and use their insight. Only those who do this will thrive and stay ahead of the competition.”

RetailAccuracy 2019
versus 2017
Average speed 2019
versus 2017
Web83% vs 70%n/a
Email68% vs 73%10hr 19m vs 24hr 12m
Facebook50% vs 28%43m 24s vs 3hr 34m
Twitter38% vs 50%1hr 56m vs 1hr 43m
Chat35% vs 25%8m 43s 4m 24s
Total59% vs 55%

Speed of response also varied widely between channels – and even within sectors and brands. One fashion retailer answered a tweet in 17 minutes, yet another took 50 hours to reply. A food and drink retailer responded on Facebook within one minute, but needed nearly 23 hours to provide an answer on email.

Overall response times on chat doubled from 4 minutes back in 2017 to 8 minutes this year. Facebook had the fastest average speed of response, at 43 minutes, 24 seconds – over twice as fast as Twitter (1 hour 56 minutes) and nearly 15 times faster than email (10 hours 19 minutes). This is despite exactly the same questions being asked across these channels.

The study evaluated 50 UK brands, split equally between the fashion, food and drink, travel, insurance and banking sectors. Brands were rated on their ability to answer five routine questions via their websites, as well as their speed, accuracy and consistency when responding to email, Twitter, Facebook and chat.

Additionally, 1,000 UK consumers were surveyed on their attitude to trust, its relationship with customer experience and on loyalty and brand reputation. All research was completed in H1 2019.

A full report, including the study results, graphics and best practice recommendations for brands to transform customer experience is available at https://www.eptica.com/19cxretail.

UK customers now contact brands nearly half a billion times every month

960 640 Stuart O'Brien

Research has highlighted the growing volume of consumer queries that UK brands now need to handle, and the increasing cost this imposes on companies – estimated at £1.227 billion.

The average UK consumer now contacts organisations nine times per month, according to research undertaken as part of the 2018 Eptica Customer Experience Automation Study.

Across the adult population this means brands need to respond to 463.5 million contacts every month, and the figure is rising.

88% of those surveyed said they now contact companies more or the same number of times as five years ago – with 16% getting in touch more than twice as often.

Increasingly, consumers are happy to embrace self-service channels where they can find their own answers, without needing to contact brands through email, the telephone, chat or social media.

83% already use or are willing to use web self-service systems, which analyse queries and deliver automatic instant answers on a company website, while over half (54%) would use intelligent voice assistants, such as Amazon’s Alexa, Google Home and Siri from Apple to gain information. 64% also want to use automated, artificial intelligence-powered chatbots.

Using industry average figures from analysts Contact Babel[1], answering these queries costs the UK economy £1.227 billion across the telephone, web, email, social media and chat channels. This is made up of £440.44m (email), £236.98m (social media), £211.99m (chat) and £338.31m (telephone).

In contrast automated channels such as self-service, chatbots and voice assistants have a negligible cost per interaction once they are in place.

“Delivering an excellent customer experience is crucial to every organisation today. However, our research shows the scale of the challenge brands face, with consumers getting in contact nearly half a billion times every month in the UK,” said Olivier Njamfa, CEO and Co-Founder, Eptica. “Clearly many of these conversations are complex and require the human touch, but others could be automated, speeding up the process for consumers and increasing efficiency for brands.”

Demonstrating the multichannel nature of today’s customer experience, on average each UK consumer used email for 27% of their interactions by brands, followed by web self-service, telephone and social media (17%) each, with 11% of contacts through chat and chatbots respectively.

“Reducing the number of contacts by 10% would save over £122 million – enabling companies to focus resources where they are needed most. Our research shows that consumers are open to embracing new AI-powered technologies such as voice assistants and chatbots, providing an opportunity to improve the experience and reduce costs at the same time,” added Olivier Njamfa.

For the research 1,000 UK consumers were surveyed online in Q3 2018.

The full report, including the study results, graphics and best practice recommendations for brands is available here.

An infographic on the results is available here.

Eptica improves efficiencies at Birmingham City Council

960 640 Stuart O'Brien

Birmingham City Council (BCC) is delivering an improved service to its 1.1 million citizens by using Eptica’s AI-powered customer experience platform to respond consistently to the over 2.19 million emails and phone calls it handles every year.

By using Eptica, BCC has cut average handling times across services for email by 30 per cent, to six hours 52 minutes, while supporting agents who handle 2.1 million voice calls every year with access to a centralised, self-learning knowledge base. Through this single source of information, consistency and accuracy is ensured across multiple channels. Over 98 per cent of emails now receive a response within the Council’s SLA of two business days, ensuring citizens benefit from faster answers to their questions across a wide range of services, from housing to education.

Birmingham City Council originally rolled out Sheldon, its Eptica-powered knowledge base to its 300 contact centre agents who answer voice calls, providing them with fast access to an expanding library of 1,300 articles, covering subjects across 17 different subject areas, from potholes and Council Tax payments to schools admissions. Agents simply type in their query, andSheldon provides tailored information from the knowledge base, allowing them to provide quick and comprehensive answers. Named by staff after a character in the TV show The Big Bang Theory, Sheldon also enables agents to provide feedback on articles, allowing them to be continually improved. BCC agents use Sheldon to help citizens around 120,000 times every year.

Due to Sheldon’s success Eptica has been extended to cover BCC’s growing email channel, replacing a range of desktop mailboxes and solutions. With the latest version of Sheldon, rolled out in Q2 2017, incoming emails and webforms from 25 services are currently analysed using Eptica’s natural language processing technology. Agents are then provided with relevant template-based answers that they then personalise, helping them to efficiently provide a tailored service to the 90,000 emails BCC receives every year.

“As a leading local authority we provide a wide range of vital services to our 1.1 million citizens,” said Georgina Foxwell, Head of Service Improvement for Customer Services, Birmingham City Council. “People rely on us – it is therefore crucial that we can respond quickly, efficiently and uniformly across different channels. Through its central knowledge base Eptica is helping us improve the experience by giving agents access to the right answers, particularly at busy times of the year or when information is updated, such as when Council Tax bills come out in March, boosting productivity and satisfaction.”

With a single, centralised knowledge base BCC can be confident that staff are providing the same responses to citizens, ensuring consistency – and as information is shared across channels, Sheldon only needs to be updated once if answers change. Alongside efficiency gains, BCC is also benefiting from more detailed reporting and management information, enabling it to continually monitor quality and improve the customer experience. As well as being easy to use, it is simple to administer, requiring just one person to manage it on an ongoing basis.

“The combination of the wide range of services it offers and the sheer number of conversations it has with its citizens means that Birmingham City Council required a scalable, future-proof platform for its customer experience,” said Olivier Njamfa, CEO and Co-founder, Eptica. “By putting Eptica’s platform at the centre of its operations it is showing how artificial intelligence can both transform efficiency and boost customer satisfaction across every channel.”

Now that Sheldon is embedded in its operations BCC is looking to extend its use. As well as covering emails from other services it is also looking at delivering the knowledge within Sheldon to other channels such as self-service, chat and social media, driving consistency and greater efficiency.

A full case study on Birmingham’s use of Eptica is available at https://www.eptica.com/birmingham-council-case-study


New Eptica Study: The Changing Face of Chat

960 640 Stuart O'Brien

How Chat can bring value to your customers and your business?

The importance of chat to customer service is accelerating, particularly now that consumers are familiar with messaging apps. It’s no wonder that 50% of companies are using chat, with an addition 24% introducing it in the next year.

So, what is the current state of chat and how can brands bridge this emerging gap between consumer expectations and reality?

Based on real-world research with consumers and brands, this guide evaluates chat in the UK, and provides best practice advice to help companies transform their chat to drive loyalty, efficiency and greater revenues. Download your copy now.

Eptica provides conversational and collaborative solutions powered by AI that enhance digital CX, to find out more please visit www.eptica.com.

Download Study Now